Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guest post: "What is a Visual Brand Standards Guide?"

I'm a big fan of companies using style guides to ensure consistency of punctuation, grammar, and other aspects of writing style. So you probably won't be surprised that I also believe in visual consistency. This week's guest post discusses your visual brand standards guide. Annie Smidt, its author, is lead designer and strategist for Seltzer.

Investment and wealth management businesses with strong branding and well-crafted, targeted messaging are connecting with current and potential clients -- from Fidelity and Schwab with their high-profile "green line" and "Talk to Chuck" rebrands/campaigns to small firms who have finally taken the plunge with a professional design firm.

Once you and your designers have gone through all the work of developing a visual identity for your company, and they've built you some great tools, such as business cards, letterhead and a website, and maybe some ads or brochures, then what?

For the long term, you should come away from your engagement with a design firm with a strategic brand marketing plan in hand. It will outline, either in broad strokes or in great specificity, your actions and goals for your brand. Ideally, you will continue working with your design firm throughout the year and years to expand the reach of your visual brand, according to this road map.

Second of all, and more germane to the topic at hand, you should come away with a Visual Brand Standards Guide. We'll call it a VBSG for short.

What is this VBSG?
Generally, the VBSG will be a document -- printed, electronic or both. Depending on what kind of work the design firm has developed for you, it will contain some or all of the following:

Logo Guidelines. This section will give the dos and don'ts for using your logo. It will include such details of logo use and abuse as:   

  • what colors it should or should not be reproduced in    what colors and backgrounds it can and cannot be placed upon --  how far away from other elements it should appear   
  • rules governing use of a tagline with the logo   
  • rules governing other graphic elements that may or may not accompany your logo    

Stationery Guidelines. This section will include information such as: 

  • what typeface to use when printing on your letterhead and envelopes 
  • what the margins, line spacing and other document layout details should be used when printing on letterhead and envelope
  • if you have multiple letterhead formats (such as first sheets and second sheets, versions with and without your board listed, or other special-purpose sheets), which version of letterhead should be used in which circumstances   
  • how to format an electronic letter on letterhead versus a printed letter

Brand Palette Guidelines. Once in a while there's a little something design-y you need to create in house. This section will give you info you need about:

  • what colors should be used in your branded communications (usually, your logo colors plus several others) -- the VBSG will tell you how to specify them for different printing processes, the web or presentations   
  • what typeface(s) should be used, and where, and how should they be styled   
  • how other graphic elements that are part of your visual brand should be used 
  • how photographs should be treated/used

Web Style Guide. If some of your website is under your control (most likely through a Content Management System), your style guide may include guidelines for the visual aspects of web content. The CMS will most likely also be set up to aid in the correct visual display of content through the use of various preset styles built in to the software. Your style guide might include:

  • which fonts, type styles and colors to use on your site for the various levels of hierarchical information (e.g., heads, subheads, paragraphs, captions).
  • if you should include photos, how they should be sized, oriented and placed   
  • any visual considerations for adding pages to the site

Other Guidelines. Depending on what your designers have created for you, and what the marketing plan entails, your VBSG may also include:

  • samples of and specs for on-screen presentations, including styles for charts and other information graphics
  • samples of different ads or ad campaigns and details of when they should be used and/or how they should be sized   
  • samples of and information about (akin to what's in the web section above) email marketing campaigns   
  • samples of and information about direct mail campaigns
  • how the brand should be localized for other countries, cities or languages   
  • samples of and usage information about any other pieces that sport your visual brand: uniforms, vehicles, holiday cards, billboards, etc.

The article above is an edited version of "What is a Visual Brand Style Guide, and why do you want one?" It originally appeared in Seltzer's monthly e-newsletter.


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Proper usage of periods: One space or two?

As a dinosaur who wrote the first chapters of her Ph.D. dissertation on a manual typewriter, I grew up leaving two spaces after every period. But times have changed, and today I leave only one space between a period and the new sentence that follows it.

The two spaces made sense when we used typewriters with monospacing, as Grammar Girl explains in "How many spaces after a period?" But now that we've switched to proportional fonts, one space has become the standard.

If you feel passionately that we should use two spaces, you've got company, as you'll see in "How Many Spaces After a Period: One or Two?"

More posts about punctuation:
* How to punctuate bullet-pointed lists
* Bloggers' top two punctuation mistakes

____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My broken link to "Should you drop subscribers who don't open your newsletter?"

Dear newsletter readers,


Here's the link that wasn't working in my August newsletter:
      "Should you drop subscribers who don't open your newsletter?"


I apologize for inconveniencing you. Thank you for bearing with me.

____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Turbulence Can Improve Portfolio Diversification"

"The only problem with diversification is that it's never been tried," said Mark Kritzman, president and CEO of Windham Capital Management, in a July 21 speech to the Boston chapter of the Quantitative Work Alliance for Applied Finance, Education and Wisdom (QWAFAFEW). If he gets his way, investors will achieve truly diversified portfolios by applying his concept of turbulence.

Continue reading my article, "Turbulence Can Improve Portfolio Diversification" in Advisor Perspectives.
____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com, follow me on Twitter or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, August 14, 2009

Leverage third-party endorsements

"Leverage third-party endorsements for maximum exposure." 

This line from "Survive and Thrive in Today's Volatile Market" by Peter Hammond, EVP, UMB Fund Services, got me thinking about financial advisors who get quoted by reporters, but fail to let their clients, prospects, and referral sources about it. After all, getting quoted is a kind of third-party endorsement.

If you get quoted, share the good news. Put it up on your website, mention it in letters and conversations, and share reprints. 

Some caveats:
* Make sure your communication is compliance-approved.
* Don't photocopy or scan an article without the publication's permission. You're infringing on their copyright. It IS okay to share a short excerpt or to link to the article on the publication's website.
* If you buy professional reprints, make sure they're typo-free and well-formatted. You can't always count on them to catch errors.
* Don't share if you're not proud of the way you were presented.
____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Poll: What newsletter strategies work best for investment and wealth managers?

Newsletters are an important part of marketing for many investment and wealth management firms.

You've got lots of options. 
  • Print newsletter vs. e-newsletter
  • Quarterly, monthly or weekly frequency
  • Market commentary and/or other topics
  • Articles that you write yourself vs. articles written by a writer whom you hire, so they reflect your firm's views vs. articles that are mass-produced by a firm that sells the same content to others 
I'd like to learn your opinion on what works best. Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of this blog. 

Also, feel free to leave a comment below.
____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Bostonians, where will you be on October 1?

Several events in Boston are competing for financial professionals' attention around October 1. The first aims at investment managers, while the last two target mutual funds.

  • Oct. 1-2, The CFA Institute's Fixed Income 2009 conference, including presentations by James Grant and Dan Fuss
  • Oct. 1, NICSA's East Coast Regional meeting, featuring keynote addresses by Robert L. Reynolds,   President and Chief Executive Officer, Putnam Investments, and Keith F. Hartstein, Director, President and Chief Executive Officer, John Hancock Funds, LLC
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 1, MFWire's Thought Leadership Summit, billed as "Thought Leadership with ...'40 Act Fund Distribution's Most Influential People"

    Where will YOU be on October 1?
    

____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

FINRA's limits on registered rep use of ghostwriters


Registered representatives, if you distribute an article with your name, FINRA wants you to contribute most of the content.

That seems to be the minimum requirement, according to comments I've received from other financial marketing writers in LinkedIn's Financial Writing/Marketing Communications Group. Your compliance department may have stricter requirements, so check before you publish.

"Misleading Communications About Expertise," a FINRA regulatory noticed dated May 2008, appears to lay out the rules. It says, "Registered representatives may not suggest (or encourage others to suggest) that they authored investment-related books, articles or similar publications if they did not write them. Such a publication created by a third-party vendor must disclose that it was prepared either by the third party or for the representative’s use."

However, what does it mean to write an article?

It appears that ghostwriters can be involved if they aren't providing the information for the article. In other words, if the rep provides the article's substance--either through an outline or an interview conducted by the ghostwriter--and if the rep oversees revisions to the article, then it's okay. At least that's what I took away from the comments of writers who interact more closely than me with compliance experts.

Again, be sure to check with your firm's compliance department before you publish.

If you've had experience with this topic, I welcome your comments.

____________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"10 Easy Secrets of Good Grammar"

"10 Easy Secrets of Good Grammar" by Martha Brockenbrough gives useful advice.

Many will be surprised by number 2: " 'I' isn't always the more educated choice." But she's got it right.


I don't agree that "semicolons are easy to use," even though I'm getting better at them.


But don't rely on my comments. Read Brockenbrough's article now!

____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

My top tips for LinkedIn newbies who want to attract financial clients, referrals, and jobs

LinkedIn is gaining power as a source of clients, referrals, and jobs, just as websites have become essential for companies. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, it's almost if you don't exist. 

In its most basic form, LinkedIn can be a gentle, low-key way of reminding people that you exist. You can also use it to meet new people. These are my main goals for LinkedIn. It has generated some business for me, but NOT as the result of my aggressively asking for it.

In this post, I share my personal top tips for raising your profile using LinkedIn.

1. Put up a profile, any profile
Just list your name and geographic location and geographic location if you're not sure what information you want to share. If a former client remembers you from your last job at a different investment management firm, LinkedIn provides an easy way for them to find you. 

2. Flesh out your profile and show your personality
After I filled in the basics, I gave my LinkedIn profile a makeover, following the advice in Guy Kawasaki's "LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover." The main idea is to give more of a sense of who you really are in your profile. If you're a LinkedIn novice, you should also read Kawasaki's "Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn." 

3. Link with others to stay in touch
You must build your network on LinkedIn to get maximum benefit. If you're comfortable with LinkedIn's security, you can let it access your email address books so it can identify your contacts who are already on LinkedIn. Then you can send them an invitation to connect.

After you connect, your contacts will automatically see your very recent updates on their LinkedIn home page. This is a big advantage in keeping you "top of mind" as a potential service provider, referral recipient, or employee. 

4. Update your status
On your LinkedIn home page, have you noticed the box under "Network Updates" that says "Tell your network what you are doing"? Updating this box regularly is one of the most valuable steps you can take. I know because I've actually gotten work from a client who was inspired by my update to contact me.

If you're a blogger, it's a great idea to link to a blog post from this box. Are you an advisor? You could mention an interesting article you're reading or a new white paper on your firm's website (but check with Compliance first). If you're a job hunter, be wary of sounding desperate. It's better to mention some positive activity you're engaged in rather than to say repeatedly "___ is looking for a job as a research analyst."


Here's one of my updates as a sample: 
Susan blogged: Statistics to calm nervous investors: Research on dollar cost averaging http://bit.ly/qKf3p 

5. Participate in LinkedIn Groups and Answers
Participating in LinkedIn Groups and asking and answering questions on LinkedIn will also raise your profile.  Plus, what you learn from others can help you do your job. I've found data and people to interview through LinkedIn.


Related posts:
Useful LinkedIn Groups for investment and wealth management job hunters
"LinkedIn's Little Secret: It's a Great Lead-Gen Tool"
How to publicize your white paper using LinkedIn
Compliance makes social networking tougher for registered reps than RIAs
How financial advisors use LinkedIn to boost their visibility
___________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, August 10, 2009

Statistics to calm nervous investors: Research on dollar cost averaging

Are you--or your clients--nervous about buying stocks? You may find comfort in statistics from "(Re)Entering the Market: The Costs and Benefits of Dollar Cost Averaging" by Gregory D. Singer, director of research, and Ted Mann, analyst in Bernstein Global Wealth Management's New York office. Their article appeared in the CFA Institute's Private Wealth Management e-newsletter (August 2009).


The bottom line, according to the authors' research
...if you have a sum of money to invest for the long term, entering the market all at once will usually prove to be a better strategy than dollar cost averaging. The odds that you will reap greater wealth in the end are in your favor. But dollar cost averaging is reasonable insurance against the risk of investing in a falling market.
The authors highlight the downside of dollar cost averaging. "If the market rises while we are 'averaging in,' we miss out on potential gains. And those forgone gains could be substantial."


As evidence, they present average 12-month rolling returns for the U.S. stock market from 1926 to November 2008 for three strategies of investing a lump sum.
  • Invest All at Once: 12%
  • Dollar Cost Averaging: 8%
  • Hold Cash: 4%
I find these numbers tremendously reassuring, even though past performance is no guarantee of future results. The case for investing all at once is even stronger following 12 months of a down market, with returns of 15%, 10%, and 3% respectively.


However, dollar cost averaging does preserve wealth during the bottom 20% of markets. In this bottom quintile, it "resulted in an average of 11.6 percent more wealth than investing all at once."  So it sounds like a great strategy for declining markets. The hitch? No one can reliably predict when those markets will occur.


Over the long run, investing all at once should outperform dollar cost averaging and holding cash.


The authors concede that investing entire lump sums immediately isn't for everyone. Their research suggests that the potential benefits from dollar cost averaging fall after the first six months. Moreover, "Beyond 18 months, averaging in doesn't make financial sense (unless it's part of a program like payroll deduction, where the money becomes available only over time)."


What do YOU think? When would you recommend investing lump sums all at once vs. dollar cost averaging?

__________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, August 7, 2009

What a difference eight months makes!

Loomis Sayles bond manager Dan Fuss spoke about "The 50-Year Opportunity in Bonds" just after Thanksgiving 2008. He liked corporate bonds.


This morning I read "U.S. corporate debt outpaced Treasuries for a fourth consecutive month and have now outperformed by 14% year to date" in the Morningstar Bond Market Commentary (August 2009).


Things sure have changed.
__________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How to punctuate bullet-pointed lists

Have you ever used a bullet-pointed list in a memo, report or PowerPoint presentation? Are you punctuating your lists correctly? Or maybe you're not as compulsive as me about these picky points.

Anyway, here's what one reference book,
The Grammar Bible, says:

"If a sentence follows the bullet, place a period at the end. Words and phrases that follow bullets need no ending punctuation. It is never necessary to place the conjunction and before the last item in a bulleted list."

Does this make sense?

If it doesn't, then post a comment with a sample bullet pointed-list. I'll give you my suggestion on how to punctuate it.


This is a repeat of a post I originally wrote in January 2006 for another blog. A writer friend recently asked me for this information, so I figured it's time to post it for readers of the Investment Writing blog.
-----------------------
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved